My Approach to The Artistic Subject

My own work begins with an observational approach, as I believe that what resides outside one’s mind is greater than its confines and ultimately full of secrets.  I bring my subconscious to the practice but attempt to cleave to the given – i.e. perception and cognition in the present  – as a matter of discipline, joining with the Moment.  This synthesis is the origin of creativity, as the present is what feeds us most in terms of inner growth.

What complicates and enriches this arrangement is Time.  As soon as you look away from the subject to the page when translating an image, memory is engaged, and your internal dynamics enter in.  This temporal gap in the observational process means you can never depict what is, because it’s changed, sometimes radically, when you go to check it out again.  (That whole “You can never step in the same river twice” thing.)  I consider that representing a scene faithfully requires illustrating Time itself, rather than objects.  In the case of slowly moving objects, they wind up looking a lot like themselves.  Quicker moving things appear, if at all, as ghostly lines of notation.  There is an often Cubist quality which emerges naturally from this method, but my interest is not in space, but rather in how the action apparent within Space belongs to an integrated process which includes consciousness, and how consciousness grapples to put together events in Time.

Portrait of Andy Patton

In my terms, “observational approach” really means looking at the attentional object, which can as easily be mental as physical – although it always involves both.  Something passing by the screen of the mind might shout out, “Hello!”, and I try and nail it down whether as an image or a hastily scrawled word…whatever it most seems to want to be.  I can usually decipher after the fact if colours or numbers or figures have been seen in or outside the eye, and so as an artifact of my conscious workings, the art work provides a full view of time, space, and mind as grasped and blended within the internal milieu.

As the sketches here demonstrate, the net effect of this approach is often one of rupture.  Frankly before art therapy school I was fascinated with rupture for it’s own sake but since moving through this have found myself more curious about additional dimensions of repair.  The truth is (from an almost spiritual perspective), that Time, Space, and Self are a boundless continuum, and in that sense, healing is not a matter of doing anything to stitch up apparent cracks.  Instead it is about realizing how profound a Oneness these elements possess, at the same time as seeming separate.  What this means for the method is: Absolutely nothing.  Just to keep making the work, and expressing the reality that filters through.

My final word is that depicting reality as such is not a 1:1 task.  We do not simply record or copy something that is, but participate fully in something that becomes.  The drawings have an incredible range, some bearing no resemblance whatsoever to anything, due to the whimsy that moves me while making.


Restaurant night at Harvard


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